Academic administrators of top university engineering programs in India, Brazil, and China joined U.S. Ivy League counterparts and multinational industry leaders in late June at Columbia University in New York City to discuss opportunities for further global collaboration. This was the first in what the group hopes will be annual meetings to explore potential undergraduate, graduate, and industry partnerships.
Outside the U.S., participating universities included the Indian Institute of Technology, the Brazilian Engineering League, and a consortium of nine Chinese universities. Like the Ivy League, member schools are administered separately but have a history of collaboration. “All of the countries represented are economic and knowledge powerhouses and have consortiums of universities that are well-known, selective, and leading the research agenda of these nations,” says Feniosky Peña-Mora, dean of Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Over the next year, Joseph J. Helble, dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth University in Hanover, N.H., will spearhead a proposal for an international undergraduate design and engineering competition—in which “global” teams of students representing at least two countries will spend either a semester or year working on industry-sponsored practical design problems. The tentative plan is for a technical mentor, either from industry or academia, to oversee the teams.
At the graduate level, administrators discussed short-term international trips for Ph.D. students and proposed setting up a student repository and tracking system to manage international travel. They also talked about faculty visits during sabbaticals and ways to encourage and fund joint papers, workshops, and international research centers.
On the industry side, participants discussed fostering a culture of entrepreneurship in academia. They suggested creation of an innovation competition that, unlike the proposed undergraduate design competition, would instead focus on business, marketing, and legal aspects of engineering beyond designing and prototyping a device.
“Engineering is an international profession, and industries are globalized so we must prepare our students on a global basis,” says Vahan Agopyan, provost for postgraduate studies at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. “How do we support industries that are globalized? We have Chinese industries in Brazil, and there are Brazilian companies in China.”